It almost feels like there’s no game tonight. Sure, the broadcast will start at 7 p.m. and the Yanks and Rays will play an official game. But it just feels like an off-day. It feels like one of those days where you can take the night off, spending it with family or friends rather than in front of the TV. There might be some fun with all the kids in the lineup and perhaps on the mound. But really, if there was ever a night to take off, this is the one.
With the division well in hand, and with home field advantage throughout the playoffs on the horizon, there’s not much left to worry about until Friday the 30th, when CC Sabathia takes the hill for Game 1 of the ALDS. Even the final series of the year against the Red Sox, against whom the Yanks are just 4-11 this season, means nothing. So what in the world can we do for the next eight days?
Worry about home field
The Yankees currently hold the top spot for home field advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs, leading both Detroit and Texas by five games with just seven to play. That’s quite a deficit to cover in such a short span. Their magic number against Texas is just two, since they’re 7-2 against them this season. For Detroit the number is three, since the Yanks played like crap when they visited the Motor City earlier this year.
In any case, something tells me that we’ll see a combination of three Yanks wins and Tigers losses before year’s end. That’ll put the Yanks at home for the first two rounds, an advantage they’ll have had just twice in the last five years.
Watch the Sox
Sure, plenty of fans will still worry about the three upcoming games with the Red Sox. Some people just sweat them for no rational reason. But watching the Sox this year has little to do with the Yanks’ record against them in 2011. It’s largely irrelevant, since, you know, AL East Champs. But the Sox are currently ensconced in a Wild Card race, and it always brings a little pleasure to see Sox fans sweat.
Watch the Wild Card race
At 88-68 the Sox currently have a two-game advantage over both the Angels and the Rays in the Wild Card race (though they have three more wins than both teams). Ideally, all three teams end with 90 wins. That means the Sox would have to go 2-4 while the Rays and Angels go 5-2. It might be a stretch, but it sure would provide some additional entertainment.
If all three teams finish with the same record, they’d go to a three-way playoff. This would affect the playoff schedule as a whole, since there’s only one off-day between the regular season and Game 1 of the ALDS, and they’d need two days to play these games. Here’s how it would break down. On Thursday Boston would host Anaheim in a one-game playoff. The winner would then travel to Tampa to face the Rays to determine the AL Wild Card. That would have to happen on Friday the 30th, though, which is scheduled to be Game 1 of the ALDS.
Late Add: Commenter Tom O. asked why the three-way playoff would go like this, so I’ll answer up here. The inset part of this article lays out the rules. The schedule is based on head-to-head records. The Rays are the best here, having gone 16-10 against the Sox and Angels. The Sox have gone 12-14 against the other two, while the Angels are 6-10. Hence, Sox vs. Angels, winner vs. Rays.
Argue about awards
Talk about the Cy Young Award and MVP races started back in August, for some unknown reason. There was a point, back then, when Adrian Gonzalez got most of the AL MVP attention. Those days are long past us, though. The narrative has shifted, and it now appears that Justin Verlander has a stranglehold on the award.
Don’t let the narrative fool you, though. It’s constructed by certain media members, and they don’t necessarily have a vote in the matter. At the same time, plenty of writers who do have votes have remained quiet on the issue. There are a few deserving candidates in the AL. Here are the final four:
Meanwhile, Verlander has a lock on the Cy Young Award, and rightfully so. There is a debate in the NL race, as Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Clayton Kershaw have all garnered consideration recently.
Watch the kids
Finally, we get back to the Yankees. Chances are you’ll see the A lineup going once the Yanks head down to Tampa next week, since they’ll need the tune-up heading into the playoffs. But you’ll certainly see some of them removed before playing the full nine. You’ll also see all of them get breather days between now and Wednesday. That means young kids, which is always fun to watch.
We’ve seen most of the kids on the position side, so now it’s time for the pitchers to shine. Last night both Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances warmed in the bullpen, but did not get into the game. We could see them this weekend against the Sox. George Kontos has pitched already, but we could see a little more of him. We might even get to see Phil Hughes pitch a little in relief, which might prove a little refreshing.
Yes, the final eight days of the regular season will bring little excitement for the Yankees. They’ve clinched what needs clinching, and are nearing the final goal: homefield advantage. Along the way, though, there should be plenty of items to hold our interests. The Wild Card race in particular will be great fun. Go Angels. Go Rays.